Which award search tool is best?

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NOTE: One of the tools reviewed in this post, Juicy Miles, no longer exists. We are waiting for the replacement tool, Point.Me, to fully roll out (it is in beta testing at this time) so that we can update this post.

Airline miles offer us flying experiences we would never dream of paying cash for.  Pictured above is me flying Etihad’s First Class Apartment last year.  While other passengers probably paid around $7,000 for the same flight from Abu Dhabi to London, I paid only 80,000 American Airlines miles (and that included a business class flight from the Seychelles to Abu Dhabi).

We often write about sweet spot awards like the one above.  It’s not hard to find opportunities like these that you’d like to try out.  The hard part is finding saver award availability.  Most airlines have multiple award pricing tiers and only the cheapest awards (often referred to as “saver awards”) are available to book with partner miles.  And that’s key.  The best deals with airline miles often involve using one airline’s miles to book awards on a partner airline.  To take advantage of those opportunities, you have to find saver award availability on the partner airline’s flight.  Often, that’s very hard to do.  Enter award search tools…

Award Search Tools: Quick Compare

Several online tools have been developed over the years to try to make award searches easier.  In this roundup, I’ll cover three popular options: Expert Flyer, Juicy Miles, and SeatSpyDisclosure: Frequent Miler will earn a commission if you sign up for one of these tools through our links.  I had intended to also include a free tool called award.flights (a Chrome plug-in), but I couldn’t get it to work on any of the searches I ran (despite having had success in the past), so I’ll leave that one for another day.

Expert Flyer Juicy Miles SeatSpy
Cost $9.99 per month* or $99.99 per year $9.99 for 5 days, or $29.99 per month Starts at $3.99 per month
Search Date Range 7 Days 3 Days 365 Days
Number of Airlines/Programs Supported 89 27 6
Award Alerts Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Leg Awards? Yes Yes No
Display Award Prices? No Yes Yes
Search Across Carriers at Once? No Yes No

* Expert Flyer also offers a $4.99 per month option, but that option doesn’t include multi-day searches or award alerts.

Each of the above tools approaches award searches in different ways.  The two most similar (but still very different!) are Expert Flyer and SeatSpy.  Both require you to know which airline you want to fly.  And both simply show whether awards are available, not which miles are best for booking those awards.

Where the two other tools require you to start with the airline you want to fly, Juicy Miles simply asks when and where you want to go.  Results are then organized by the types of points you may have.  For example, the tool will show you the best options for booking with transferable points (Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, etc.) or with specific airline miles.

Each of the tools in this round-up have pros and cons…

Expert Flyer

Expert Flyer searches require entering origin, destination, departure date, and airline.  You can choose up to 3 days on either side of your dates in order to get 7 total days worth of results. You can also choose to search for one or more classes of service at once.
Expert Flyer’s search results show both nonstop and connecting routes, along with detailed information about each segment.

Pros

  • Supports a huge list of airlines (89 at the time of this writing)
  • Identifies multi-leg awards, not just non-stop
  • Provides many other flight features besides award searches

Cons

  • Requires you to know which airline you want to fly
  • Doesn’t display award prices
  • Doesn’t help identify best points or miles to use to book a given award
  • Setting alerts can be a painstaking process: You need to setup a separate alert for each and every flight + date of interest.  For example, if there are three flights per day that would work for you and you’re open to flying on any of 4 different days, then you would need to setup 12 different alerts.

Juicy Miles

Unlike other award search tools, Juicy Miles doesn’t ask you to first pick an airline.  Instead, you enter your desired travel destination and dates and then Juicy Miles searches across a huge number of loyalty programs to find the best award deals.
On the left side of Juicy Miles’ results screen you’ll see each of the award programs that can be used to book the available awards that matched your criteria.  Once you select one of the programs (Membership Rewards is selected above), the middle column is populated with each of the itineraries that can be booked with that program, along with route information and the number of points required. Once you select a particular itinerary, the rightmost column shows detailed flight information.  When you click “Select this Flight”, Juicy Miles pops up details about how to book that flight.  In the example shown, it tells you to enroll in Avianca Lifemiles, transfer points from Amex to Lifemiles, and then to book the flight via Lifemiles.

Pros

  • This is the only tool that walks you through not just finding awards, but also how to book them.
  • Supports almost all relevant points & miles currencies
  • Each search spans all supported mileage and points programs. The tool doesn’t require picking a single airline to search at a time.
  • Displays number of miles required for each award
  • Displays estimated taxes and fees for each award
  • Supports transferable points programs
  • Includes Southwest Airlines (that’s rare even for paid flight searches)
  • Results include itineraries that involve multiple airlines.  For example, a Star Alliance award may include a segment flown on United Airlines, followed by a segment flown on Turkish Airlines.

Cons

  • Can only search 3 days at a time
  • Alerts are set manually: you must email or online chat with Juicy Miles to setup an alert
  • Can only search a single class of service at a time
  • Much more expensive than the other tools

SeatSpy

SeatSpy offers a unique display that cleanly shows a year’s worth of results at once.  Different colors indicate different classes of service that are available on each day.  When hovering over a single day, you can see the number of seats available for each class of service, along with the number of points required by that airline’s loyalty program to book the award (note: you may be able to get better award prices by booking through a partner program, but SeatSpy isn’t designed to give you that kind of information).

Pros

  • Displays an entire year of results at a time
  • Very fast results
  • Displays award prices when you click on a date
  • Alerts are easy to set up and can be set for an almost unlimited date range
  • Inexpensive compared to the other tools

Cons

  • Relatively few airlines supported so far: Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, KLM, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic
  • Searches only for non-stop flights

Which is Best?

In my opinion, Juicy Miles is the best overall tool by a wide margin.  That said, it’s not best for all purposes.  Its biggest limitation right now is the fact that you can only search 3 days at a time and for one class of service at a time.  Consider the situation where you’re open to flying anytime within a 3 week period and you’ll happily fly business class or first class.  Even if you only have a single destination in mind, you would still have to run 20 different searches through Juicy Miles to cover all possibilities.  If you were only interested in a single airline, though, Expert Flyer could support your needs with just three separate searches, and Seatspy could do it with one search (in the relatively rare case that they support your airline of interest).  So, this brings me to my recommendations of the best tool based on needs:

Juicy Miles is best if you know when you want to travel (within a day or two)

This is the only tool I know of where running an award search is as simple as running a paid flight search on a tool like Kayak or Google Flights.  Of course, this tool does cost a lot more than the others, but when planning a specific trip it should be possible to sign up for just 5 days at a time for $9.99 until you find the flights you want.  Alternatively, you could sign up for monthly service for $29.99 per month and cancel once you’ve booked your dream trip.

You can read more about Juicy Miles here: Juicy Miles – Finally, a Kayak-like tool for flight awards!

SeatSpy is best if you want to fly a specific non-stop route on a specific airline

Of course, SeatSpy is only best for this if it happens to support the specific airline you want.  As an example of how to make the most of SeatSpy, I recently showed how SeatSpy could be used to find lie-flat United awards to Hawaii.

If you’re interested in finding non-stop awards on any of the supported airlines (Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, KLM, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic) then SeatSpy is an incredible tool for that purpose.

You can read more about SeatSpy here: SeatSpy -An awesome tool for finding non-stop awards.

Expert Flyer is best if you want to fly a specific airline

Expert Flyer supports far more airlines than SeatSpy, and it’s great for finding both non-stop and connecting awards.  One great thing about Expert Flyer is that you can try out a premium subscription for free for 5 days without inputting a credit card number.  So, unlike most free trials, there’s no fear that forgetting to cancel in time will result in getting charged.  Expert Flyer also offers a free service for seat alerts.  This free service is not for finding awards, but rather for finding availability of a specific seat of interest on a flight that you are booked on.

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35 Comments
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B B

I’m not seeing the JM booking tool, just their site for their booking service. Following all the links from this site. Am I missing something?

Thomas Underhill

Juicy Miles is $360 per year if you pay $30 per month.

However, if you pay in advance you can get the service for one year for $300. This is found in the FAQ at their website.

Ron

You should add AwardNexus and KVSTool to your comparison. Both these tools are very good for people who know what they’re doing. KVSTool has the added plus of being a Windows app and not a web app, so it is quick.

Ron

Hi Greg… I personally think that having a tool on my desktop is a huge benefit in terms of speed, flexibility and especially privacy over web based tools.

So consider that other people will have different criteria than your criteria. The best thing you can do is just is to include it, and give people the facts to allow them to use their criteria and make the best choice for themselves.

I have no connection with the publisher of KVSTool, and in fact I pay for Experflyer, AwardNexus and KVSTools because each has strengths and weaknesses and no tool is perfect… (and KVSTool definitely has its weaknesses, such as a cryptic search results and needing constant updates.)

If you want your blog to really help people and rise above the others, then just give people the full picture, ideally with the strengths and weaknesses and your personal opinion (as it is your blog), and people will then decide for themselves.

[…] I have never paid for this! Because the whole point is to travel for free   Which award search tool is best? […]

Mr Sr

Used them all. JM By far the best tool for award planning.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mr Sr
JvdB

Great article, thanks for posting this. Would you ever include Award Nexus in the comparison chart? I have used them for a couple of years, and have had more luck with them than with expert flyer, just easier to use. Very tempted to subscribe to Juicy Miles, their functionality seems pretty great even if they cannot do an annual search

JvdB

Hi Greg.

I am not sure how to assess whether the site is up to date. Do you mean are there searches accurate? (for me they have been). Or do you mean they search all airlines (I am not sure to what degree they do, they definitely include most airlines)

What I like about them is that their searches are reasonably priced, and you only pay when you do a search (you buy “credits” in advance, and you use those credits whenever you actually search).

While the sight has a bit of a learning curve, I find it easy to use once you get how the searches work.

Something else I have had happen a number of times is that it found availability a number of times through routing/ a different airline partner that I hadn’t thought to try myself in a manual search. My favorite example is a non-stop business class flight I had found in a manual search on KLM from Amsterdam to Tokyo through Flying Blue for 110K miles + $250 in cash, I was frustrated with the high amount of miles, and went to award nexus to see whether there might be a one stop that looked acceptable, to my happy surprise, it found the same non stop KLM flight with Delta Miles for way fewer miles (80K!), and hardly any “fuel fees” (seems like somewhere in the $50 or $75 range)

It is also kinda great at doing complicated long searches, I have planned travel from my home airport, DFW, to several destinations in Australia and (South East) Asia, the sight produced routing options that I would not have known to try out in a manual search

The sight also has plenty of drawbacks, the searches take a while, depending on how many airlines you tell it to try, not a huge issue for me, but it might turn off people who want to click search and get an immediate hit

It can also be kinda “glitchy”, for example, in the past months, I have done searches in the Star Alliance (lol, I know you have your expiring ANA miles, I have a bunch of KrisFlyer miles that are slowly and cruelly evaporating), almost every time I have done a search, it has an error message saying it is “unable to connect to the ANA search engine”. I have no idea whether this is an Award Nexus or an ANA issue, but it does make the sight feel a bit glitchy

I think that’s about it for my two cents 🙂

Gene

Are there similar tools for hotel award booking?

Christian

For me, the biggest drawback with ExpertFlyer is that award space isn’t shown for Cathay or JAL, which are the two airlines you want to access to Asia. Does Juicy Miles show award space for them?

Mike SAPMAN

I used Juicy Miles about 18 months ago for a trip to Singapore thru Istanbul from Ohio on Turkish Air. The site was easy to use considering the complex nature of looking for options using the points/miles I had in my accounts. And it walked me thru the process to move points to the airline to get the flights booked. PS. The Turkish Air Busn lounge in IST was the best in the world, in my opinion. And a great airport as well.

Matt

Seatspy’s concept of seeing a year’s worth of availability quickly is fantastic but it’s a bummer to see that the tool is inaccurate on United. Been testing it for fun against the UA website on a bunch of routes and dates, and Seatspy misses days with nonstop saver availability and shows some days having availability when there is none.

HoKo

By any chance do you have the United credit card? This would cause you to receive different results (when logged in to United.com)

Maybe you could share the results of your research with Greg — this is important feedback for him to include in his post if he is able to replicate the same issues you are seeing.

Matt

I purposefully don’t log in for this reason, but good suggestion and thank you

Matt

I forgot to say: one example is EWR-DEL in Sept and first half of Oct. Compare to UA’s calendar search.

Matt

Thank you so much for following up… I posted about UA issues on SeatSpy in a few places and no one ever responded that they were seeing what I was. I felt like i was going crazy! But I just ran a few routes out/in of EWR and it looks like everything is matching up now.

Koby

Juicy Miles is great but since the pandemic they haven’t displayed all available airlines all the time. Many times they don’t even show Delta/BA awards. They have informed me that they are working on a new platform so I’m sure it will be vastly improved.

HoKo

That’s interesting to hear. Did they provide any explanation for why they were having issues with the Delta/BA awards?

Koby

No, but they did give me 3 months free service while they are working on the new platform.

HoKo

Gotcha. Yeah I’m excited to see what they come up with for their new platform. I’ve always been pretty impressed that they are successfully able to do what they do.

Vaibhav Shetge

Would award maximizer at Travel Codex fall in this category too?

quasimodo

Thank you Frequent Miler! I’ll have to try JM some day. Going to apply for a Citi Prem card in the next couple of months. Going through ur link! It’s BMed!

ssss

I found Juicy Miles or formerly AwardEx taught me a lot about each of the programs. I hadn’t realized some carriers I could use my miles. For complex trips to uncommon locales, JuicyMiles is a lifesaver. I wish JuicyMiles offered the same fabulous promo AwardEx did to FTU attendees. 🙂

Andre

I needed this right now! Thank you, Greg!